How To Create A 12 Sequence Screenplay Outline and Why It Works by Gary Goldstein

Transcript of video

Film Courage  0:00  

Can you take us through your outlining process? 

Gary Goldstein 0:10

Sure. Generally, what I’ll do is I’ll start with a premise line, and I’ll write out a premise line sort of, basically, for me, like the foundation of the script, couple of sentences take take, you know, from start to finish, and then I’ll expand that into maybe 234 pages, there’s a sort of write it in sections. So I’ll divide it into into three, basically, if it’s a movie, three movie acts, but you know, more in quarter, so it’s like the equivalent of quarter, quarter, quarter quarter, which takes me through the four quarters, or the three acts of the of the, of the movie. So it’s, I can keep it because one of the things that happens when you start writing it for me, and when I start writing out, and that writing outline in, you know, prose form, is that, you know, if you don’t, if you’re not from me, if I don’t kind of stop, stop writing, at a certain point, you know, you end up with, let’s say, your outline is for paid your writing it just outline the four pages, the first two pages may really only be the first quarter of your script, because you know, you know, you end up writing so much, and then, then you have to really, then ultimately, you end up with kind of, you know, disproportionate disproportionate acts. So basically, I’m just trying to write it as tightly as I can, I’ll write it long. And then I’ll then I’ll edit it, but in the end, I want to end up with kind of four relatively close descriptions of each quarter. Okay, so let’s say that’s, that ends up being three, four pages, whatever, then if it’s on, if it’s an assignment, then I’ll then I’ll give it to the executive or whatever, I’ll get notes on it, rework it. And then if it’s not, for me, I’ll do the same thing for myself. And then what I do is, I divide the, and this was a, you know, really, I have to credit writers bootcamp for this, because they really, this was kind of the way they taught me how to do it, and how I always do it now, and I taught other people and I, I think it’s pretty, it’s one of those things that just sort of like, I don’t think it’s an uncommon way to do it. But it kind of boils down to, I think, a really effective way of doing it is that you divide, I divided up into 12 sequences, three sequences in the first act, six in the second act, and three in the third act of equal weight. So basically, you know, if you’re writing 120, page script, or you know, it’s 10 pages, a sequence, if you write if you’re more like 100 page script, it’s eight or nine pages of sequence, and I beat out the list of scenes. So I’ll take I turn, I create a sequence sentence. Yeah, so this is sequence one, two, and three. So edit that sequence sentence that I write right out pulled from the outline, the longer outline, I then write a list of the scenes that will comprise that, that, that that sequence, so I’ll put like, the scenes in a row, and then I’ll figure out how many pages that scene will approximately be, so that I can add it up, add up each sequence and say, at the end, those six scenes will equal eight and a half pages of something, and it’s an estimate, and maybe sometimes I’m very off, but it’s an estimate. And this is just my kind of organized way of doing it, you know, and how I don’t get lost in the process, you know, and how I really kind of stay on track, this is just mine, everybody has the way of doing it. And so I did that. So ultimately, you end up with basically 12 series of, of single of sinless, so and which should eat ultimately, when you add it all up, should equal, you know, whatever your page, desire page count is 100 105 pages, 120 pages, something an estimate. And then I take that I put that onto my final draft that list onto my final draft, and I create a slug line over each one, you know, interior living room, night exterior, you know, baseball field day, whatever. And, and so I have the line, and then the what the what the scene is about, and then I have the slug line. So basically, what I end up with is a whole written script, except for that dialogue, essentially. And then you go in and just, you know, you craft it. And to me, it’s just it’s a very step by step process. So it’s like an accordion, you’re constantly expanding that accordion, until you’ve had the whole script written. So that, that that that works for me. 

Film Courage

But everybody does it differently. What about writers who say they don’t do outlines? 

Gary Goldstein

If they can do it, that’s more power to them. You know, I everybody, you know, I look at like, some of the Coen Brothers movies, you know, some of the great movies of our time, right, amazing stories, incredible character, you know, incredibly creative. Those movies are not not all necessary. I don’t know how they if they outline how they outline, but but they don’t feel as specifically structured as most movies. You see, some are some aren’t. I think they take you know, they just they’re really brilliant, you know, I think they’re just able to, you know, they’re able to infuse their stories in the in their own world in their own structure. You know, for example, if you can do it, it’s great. I think I do. I’ve just seen too many writers who get lost in the process because they haven’t sort of laid it out enough ahead ahead of time. But again, it works for me, I and I never look at it at any of this like oh, it’s it’s putting me in a box or I’m You know, using our formula, it’s not at all it’s just, it’s how I write, and especially when you’re on a deadline, and you know, you have a limited amount of time to write something, it really helps me, you know, you know, move more quickly and, and give me a system of sort of checks and balances on my material. And, and kind of forced, it helps me not overwrite, as well. And ultimately, maybe spend not lose too much time on on any material that I’m not ultimately going to put in the script. 

Film Courage

So what’s your nemesis, when you’re on my deadline,

Gary Goldstein  5:35

you know, changes too many changes along the way, you know, kind of any wholesale changes that may sort of crop up, you know, it’s never a problem, you know, kind of just shifting something, rearranging something changing dialogue, you know, threading something in, but sometimes there’s that wholesale change, like, the whole, you think something’s working in that just whole concept is just not, it’s just not playing and you know, it’s not gonna, you know, it’s not going to, it’s not going in the end, you’re going to be found out and it’s not going to work. So it’s like lifting out a whole part and putting it aside and reconfiguring it when you have to do that in the middle. It doesn’t happen often. And again, I think if you’ve got a strong outline, and particularly if it’s if it’s an assignment where you’re working with people and they’re approving an outline, and they they’re in agreement with what you’ve written, you kind of trust stick to pretty much what you know what you sold essentially. But yeah, too many changes on it. When there’s a tight deadline can be really difficult. unexpected changes

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